School choice in Florida’s oyster country

Dec 15 2022 • By Roger Mooney

Editor’s note: This distinctive high school in the Florida Panhandle is another compelling example of how education choice manifests in rural areas, contrary to myths perpetuated by choice opponents in other states. To rebut that misinformation, reimaginED published a new white paper last week called “Rerouting the Myths of Rural Education Choice.” You can check it out here.

BY RON MATUS

EASTPOINT, Fla. – They call it the Forgotten Coast because even though Florida is overflowing with 22 million people, this bend where the South meets the sea is not yet overrun.

Eastpoint, population 2,614, is the heart of the Forgotten Coast. Until a few years ago, its waterfront was lined with tin-roofed shacks, with workers in white rubber boots processing every bit of briny goodness that could be culled from Apalachicola Bay. Those seafood houses aren’t humming like they used to; for the bay’s world-famous oyster fishery, these are especially tough times. But even now, Eastpoint gets up before the rest of us, to head to work while the stars are still out.

That resilience is getting a boost nowadays from an unlikely source: An unassuming little school.

ED Corps High School serves kids who were not a good fit for traditional schools. It emphasizes life skills and job skills and industry certifications. And its students spend a third of their time outdoors, often working on conservation projects that mesh with the community fabric – like planting marsh grass to stabilize shorelines, or planting oysters so that someday, people can get back to tonging them up.

“The last thing you want is a job you’re not excited about,” said Joe Taylor, executive director of Franklin’s Promise Coalition, a community non-profit that counts ED Corps as a critical part of its portfolio. “This is where they grew up. They want to be in the woods or on the water.”

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Roger Mooney

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